Becca Jane St Clair

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The Best Cheesesteaks This Side of Philly

About a week ago I started hearing about a new Philadelphia Cheesesteak restaurant opening up in London. I was skeptical, as previous attempts were not very good, until I read that the owner hails from the same area of New Jersey I do. I was sure this would mean decent and authentic cheesesteaks, and I was not disappointed.

After the debacle at the railway show, Tim and I headed into London specifically to make a pilgrimage to Passyunk Avenue.

Passyunk Avenue can be found on small street in Fitzrovia (80 Cleveland Street), which is super easy to get to from the Warren Street tube stop. The restaurant is small, but I was told they do have a lower floor with additional seating for when it gets busy.

The atmosphere was amazing. All of the staff (that I spoke to) are from Philly or New Jersey, and ironically, all the patrons I spoke to were as well! It was almost like we were back in Center City Philadelphia. And speaking with the patrons who had eaten before us, the food was getting rave reviews for authenticity.

We were given seats in the back corner. My only complaint was the chairs were a bit low for the table, and I wound up sitting on the bench at the back next to Tim, which always makes me feel kinda awkward! But the food….

Sandwich prices were around £10-11. Really not bad. Sides started around £4. Tim and I spent £30 between two cheesesteaks, an order of Old Bay cheese fries, a beer, and a diet coke. Which frankly, we probably would have spent £50 or more going to a different restaurant in London, so I found the prices pretty good. Even a trip to Five Guys or Ed’s Easy Diner (my other two favourite American style places) would have cost us well into the £30-40 mark.

We both ordered Chicken Cheesesteaks. Well, I actually wanted to order Chicken Cheesesteak Hoagies, but I think I confused our server when I said no onions (as in raw) and she assumed I meant not cooked (I’m allergic). It didn’t really matter so we ate what was put in front of us and they were tasty. The bread was softer than you would expect if you were in Philly (or NJ), but decent for the United Kingdom. The homemade wiz is what really makes the sandwich though. Many restaurants that try to serve a Philly Cheesesteak either use sliced cheese or they get confused and use Philadelphia cream cheese (ew!). So while it wasn’t bright orange like traditional Chez Wiz…it was really good!

I absolutely recommend visiting if you’re an ex-pat from PA/NJ missing the tastes of home, or even if you’re curious as to what an authentic Philly cheesesteak tastes like. I know I have a new favourite place to eat in Philly, that’s for sure!

The only thing missing was an ice cold Yuengling!


The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission.

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[Travel] Grocery Shopping

A selection of food and drink souvenirs from Austria.

One of the things I love to do when we travel is to hit up the local grocery store even if we’re not self-catering. On our recent day trip to Rotterdam, I went into a grocery store and purchased a bunch of foods to try, but my pic of everything turned out too blurry to use for anything (sorry!)

Going to a local grocery store first of all can cut down on food costs while travelling. Even if you’re not self-catered, you can pick up snacks for your visit or in your room – a box of cereal bars that will last for 5 days is going to be cheaper than buying them in singles from the corner shop. Same with a bag of apples. Buying beer or other alcohol to drink in your room can cut down on your bar bills tremendously, and if your room has a kettle, you can stock up on tea, cups of soup, etc. And if you packed a spork and a set of nesting plastic boxes, you can even pack up your own lunches to take with you when you’re on the go.

Second, you get a better feel for the language if you’re in a foreign country and don’t have knowledge of the native language. Everything in a grocery store is labelled and sometimes there are even pictures of the item. For example, with a pile of lemons in Germany, you will see the word “Zitrone”. Now you know when you go out to a restaurant and see the word “Zitrone” on a menu the dish contains lemon.

I bought zitrone wafer cookies in Austria, and other flavours.

Third, it can help to get a flavour for local food. Check out the bakery section to see what breads and pastries the locals buy. Head to the deli section and see what meat (if you’re a meat eater) is popular. Look at the local beer options if you’re a drinker. And check out the chocolate aisle! Don’t forget buying chocolate at the grocery store will be a lot cheaper than buying it at a convenience store.

Our chocolate haul from Austria

Fourth, as you can see from my photos, bringing back food as souvenirs is fun! Feeling glum in the middle of Winter knowing your next holiday is months away? Break into some chocolate or make a bowl of soup. Giving food to friends and family is great too – everyone loves cookies and chocolate! Need a gift for a beer drinker? How about a few bottles of a local brew (space permitting, of course!)?

Fifth, if you’re really feeling homesick, or are travelling with children who might need a dose of “home”, you can always head to the grocery store and look to see if they stock a similar product or if they have an import aisle. Imported items will be expensive, but sometimes, you just need it. As an American now living in the UK, I can vouch for sometimes just needing a dose of “home” and yes, I have paid £2 for a single can of Root Beer.

And lastly, shopping in a grocery store can be fun! Check out this short video I made while Tim and I were shopping in a Billa store in Gmünd and at a MPREIS in Werfen.

Follow along on our Austria trip:

Watch the rest of the videos here:

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from products pictured in my photos or video, nor did I receive compensation from the shops visited.

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Speaking of Food….

In honour of 09/09/09, Restaurant.Com is offering gift certificates at 90% off if you use code “NINETY” at check-out.

What does this mean? Restaurant.Com usually sells $25 gift certificates for $10, but with this sale, you only pay $1 per gift certificate! I stocked up to use as gifts for my friends and for myself to use. I have a lot of friends I want to give gifts to, and this is one of the best ways to give them something they’ll use!

You can use the gift certificates anywhere in the country (US only), so one option if you plan on traveling is to purchase some of these certificates and hang onto them until you travel, then redeem your certificate for a restaurant in the town you’re visiting.

Offer is valid only until September 13th, so hurry!

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Hotel Dining

Eating while traveling is always a problem. You either wind up spending way too much money to eat three meals/day out, eat nothing but junk food and other snacks during the day but a full dinner, or you try to make food in your hotel room.

Some hotels offer rooms with kitchenettes (self-catering) consisting of a fridge, stove, sink, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker. With these at your disposal, all you need to do is make a trip over to the closest grocery store and stock up. Most self-catering hotels offer you all of the kitchen utensils, pots/pans, and dinnerware you will need either in your room or at your request. Some places even have a closet full of condiments and spices you can gain access to. While self-catering is the cheapest option for food while traveling, it does require that you spend some time doing the actual cooking. Trying to have Lunch at your hotel could become problematic if you were staying outside of the city center and needed to travel back and forth. Depending on how long the commute is, you could wind up wasting several hours each day just trying to save a few dollars. Your best option at a self-catered hotel is to eat Breakfast and Dinner at the hotel, and Lunch out.

Many hotels now offer rooms with an empty minifridge instead of the traditional minibar. You can use the fridge free of charge to keep food and drink cold. This could come in handy for bringing back leftovers from a restaurant, keeping some fruit or cheese for a snack, even for chilling a bottle of wine to enjoy later in the evening. If the hotel also offers a microwave, you’re in even better shape. Think back to your days of college dorm cooking when all you had was a microwave, coffee pot, and fridge and I’m sure you can come up with plenty of ideas. If the fridge has a freezer section you could even pick up frozen entrees from the grocery store.

Some hotels that do not usually have fridges or microwaves in the rooms give you the option of adding one to your room for an additional fee. Also, check the breakfast area of your hotel. If it’s out in the open, sometimes the microwave and toaster are available for use all day. Of course, if you have a medical condition that requires keeping medicine refrigerated, most hotels won’t hesitate to put a fridge in your room free of charge, and there’s nothing stopping you from keeping other food/drink in it with your medicine.

The above options are great if you can find them, and if you don’t mind paying extra for the amenities, but if it is not an option, you’re usually left with two things: a coffee pot (or kettle) and a bucket for ice.

Recently, my friend posted the following to her journal. Her husband sent her the link after she informed him she would be packing along food for their trip to Dragon*Con to help offset the cost of food.


My only response to this is “wow”. I personally would never dream of cooking something IN the kettle because someone else will always have to use it and you don’t want to be the jerk who makes their tea taste like pasta. But dehydrated pasta you add hot water to? No problem. As illustrated in the video, it was pretty easy to get a bowl and utensils from the hotel. Some convenience foods even come in a container you add hot water to, such as instant oatmeal or Pot Noodle.

Another example of extreme hotel cooking was found via this link:


Again, this is something I would never do. Though a very clever idea, you really could do damage to the hotel’s iron if you tried this. Some hotels have sensitive smoke detectors in the rooms, and attempting to cook with your iron could result in setting it off.

So what can you do in a hotel room with few amenities? Like I said above, look for food you only need to add hot water to – soup, oatmeal, and pasta are three popular choices. For a quick vegetable soup, dissolve a vegetable bullion cube in some hot water and then add a can of mixed vegetables. The hot broth will heat up the vegetables. Many soups come in powdered form and you can jazz them up with some simple ingredients. For example, you might not be able to make that grilled cheese sandwich to go with your tomato soup, but you could sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top of your soup and dip pieces of bread in it.

Another option is turning the sink into a wet bar, though this will mean brushing your teeth and washing your hands at the bathtub. Simply plug the drain on the sink and start filling it with ice from the hotel’s ice machine. Submerging your food in the ice will create the same effect as if you had things in a cooler and you can keep loads of food cold this way. I would still stay away from items that are overly perishable, but string cheese or Babybell cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and lunchmeat are all items that would stay cold on ice. You might have to change out the ice every day and leave a note for housekeeping not to clean the sink.

If you’re driving to your hotel, you could pack a small crock pot and use that in your room. Plug it in in the morning and by the time you get back to the room, you’ve got a hot dinner. If you have your own electric kettle (we called them hot pots when I was in college) you could bring that along to cook soups or pasta in. Electric sandwich presses also could come in handy. I would avoid bringing along an electric skillet or grill due to the aforementioned smoke detector problem.

If your hotel doesn’t even offer an ice bucket and ice, you’re better off finding a new hotel if you really plan on trying to eat in your room. Either that, or you’ll have to stick to nonperishable and snack foods. When I used to go on road trips, I would pack a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jam, a loaf of bread, and a knife. It got a bit monotonous, but it was always filling, and nonperishable.

Some hotel food options include:

*Peanut Butter and Jelly
*Tuna fish in the can (use packets of mayo to avoid mayo going bad)
*Sandwich Paste (UK item)
*Hard cooked eggs
*babybell cheese or cheese in a can
*Fresh fruit and vegetables
*cup of soup/pot noodle
*instant oatmeal

The list could go on and on. What do you take along to eat in a hotel?